ESSENCE Festival of Culture is BACK, and we're outside baby!
That's right, as one of the city's most coveted festivals to attend, Essence Fest returns to New Orleans full throttle. Celebrating Black music, Black businesses, and of course, Black women, the celebration will take place from Thursday, June 30 through Sunday, July 3. This year's theme is "It's the Black Joy for Me!" and joy it will be for the highly anticipated event.
In 2020, COVID-19 affected the original July dates being pushed to a later time in the fall. However, the festival was canceled altogether. It was later announced that ESSENCE would resume, virtually, in 2021. As the world continued adjusting to safety protocols and mask mandates centered around coronavirus, the first-time virtual event took place over the span of two weekends.
Traditionally held at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, Caesars Superdome will host this year's concert series. All daytime events, workshops, Q&A sessions, panels, and other informational exploits will recommence at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Virtual experiences will still be available to the public at select events properly aligning with the introduction of the metaverse and its offerings. Events start at 9:30 a.m. Friday as the Convention Center opens its doors to the public and ticket holders.
Kevin Hart at Essence Fest
On Thursday, June 30, comedian and actor Kevin Hart will hit the mic at the Smoothie King Center at 8 p.m. This will be the first U.S. date as part of his first national tour following his stint in Ireland. Entertainment brand developer Kenny Burns will host the opening event.
Other comedy shows featuring Finesse Mitchell and Earthquake are set in motion later throughout the week at the Joy Theater. Guy Torry is set to host.
Hart will be just the tip of the iceberg of the extraordinary talents performing this year. Mainstage events will kick off on Friday around 6:30 p.m. at the Superdome.
Rap, Country, and Some Soca Music at Essence Fest on Friday, July 1
The current queen of Hip Hop, Nicki Minaj, is making her ESSENCE Fest debut which is sure to have a packed house. Minaj will headline the night, shared with a lengthy roster of household names. Mickey Guyton, who received praise for her rendition of the "Star-Spangled Banner" at this year's Super Bowl, will join superstars such as Beenie Man, Kes the Band, and Machel Montano as part of the main stage acts.
Also that Friday in the Coca-Cola Room, Louisiana native, and TV personality Toya Wright will host the intimate series featuring performers Raiche, Justine Skye, rapper Dream Doll, and Bel-Air actress Coco Jones. Rubi Rose and Baby Tate are also scheduled to perform.
Broken Hearts, Soul, and a Little Church at Essence Fest on Saturday, July 2
Janet "Ms.Jackson, if you're nasty" Jackson, will take center stage. Her last appearance was in 2010, a year after the death of her brother, Michael. Carl Thomas, D-Nice, Stephanie Mills, and Dru Hill, who was recently honored at the Black Music Awards, will deliver their hits.
Fresh off nabbing the magazine's recent digital cover, Summer Walker is also a newbie performing for the first time this year. This follows the release of her second album Still Over It. The album was a chart-topper and debuted at No. 1 on the R&B album charts. Louisiana-born and Grammy winner Lucky Daye rounds out the roster for his festival debut. He also shares the digital cover with Walker.
Off the strength of her critically-acclaimed album Heaux Tales, and finally getting her Grammy wins, Jazmine Sullivan is making a comeback better than before. She was a part of the A-list talent for the virtual concert in 2021 debuting singles like "Feelings," and "Bodies" along with classics "Bust Your Windows" and more.
Destiny's Child alum and actress LeToya Luckett will proceed with Wright's hosting duties in the Coca-Cola Room as Sevyn Streeter, Ro James, Vanity Rose, Mereba, and Dixson are set to perform.
Old School Jams, Gen-Z Babies, Millenials, & Classic Hip-Hop at Essence Fest on Sunday, July 3
ESSENCE Fest has always reserved Sundays for either surprise guests to close out the weekend or keep the entertainment solid with old-school legends.
This comes as no surprise with the likes of New Edition, The Isley Brothers, The Roots, Method Man, Raekwon, and Ghostface Killah. However, Tems, City Girls, and Wizkid will all make their feature debuts bridging the gap between old-school music lovers to millennials and down to Gen-Z.
While the Coca-Cola room has yet to announce the closing day's host, expect performances from Teedra Moses, Atozzio, Monaleo, Damien Escobar, Jordan Hawkins, Frederic Yonnet, and Empire alum Serayah.
Other talents expected to perform include SWV, Xscape, Tamar Braxton, Saucy Santana, Erica Banks, Hood Celebrity, The Chuck Brown Band, and more during the After Dark events at the Republic and Joy Theater.
What's New At the Convention Center this year at Essence Fest?
The Film Festival is the latest addition featured at the Convention Center on the second floor. Film screenings, panel discussions, and networking will be an opportune time for those who work behind the lens.
There's also a space for Black men at the In His Zone Men's Experience. Single men, married men, fathers husbands, you name it. All men are welcomed to engage in conversations about dating, relationships, fatherhood, sports, travel, fashion, and the integration of camaraderie.
Daytime Adventurers, Q&As, Technology, Health & More at Essence Fest
The Convention Center has always served as a precursor to the concert nightlife and crowds. This year won't be any different. Vendors, beauty experts, social media, and global influencers that focus on branding their business agendas and trends have exponentially grown in attendance and curiosity.
Conversations with artists, musicians, book authors, storytellers in film, and food will continue to as a focal point of learning and amusement. Hosted by ESSENCE Studios Center Stage, panel discussions for development and enterprise will be filled with post-pandemic testimonies and entrepreneurial realizations.
Roundtables for business leaders and media influencers spreading the wealth of knowledge at the Wealth and Power panel is sure to spark financial interest in income streams and asset gains. WWL News Anchor Sheba Turk is scheduled to speak during the experience.
Health care professionals, doctor practitioners, and wellness influencers will participate in the Health Hub discussing various topics from mental health post-pandemic lockdown, physical well-being, holistic medicines, domestic disputes, and other pertinent information for a healthier mindset.
For tech lovers, startup companies, and venture capitalists, the Tech Summit will provide conversations and demonstrations of new-age thinking and networking opportunities in technology.
The Get Lifted Gospel Celebration will be at 10 a.m. for all those ready for fellowship with spiritually-minded individuals.
The NOPSI Hotel will host professional development classes on Friday and Saturday at 9:30 a.m., and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art is providing self-care classes throughout the weekend. The list of things to do will be limitless, which means you may need to duplicate yourself if you can find out how.
The New Face Of ESSENCE
Caroline Wanga was announced as the new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for the brand in 2020 following the controversial resignation of Richelieu Dennis. She's all for vibrancy as the resurgence of the festival is just days away.
"[The ESSENCE Festival] is the place where we celebrate Blackness without having to accommodate everybody," Wanga told The Breakfast Club in celebration of the festival's physical return.
Thinking of attending prior to July 4? Tickets can be purchased at TicketMaster for as low as $76.